English Words in Action, Group S

(a variety of English words which have developed through history and are currently used in our modern age)

English vocabulary quizzes in random order from easy to more difficult for greater word skills.

Simply click on this banner (or the following link) and you will be on your way to stimulate your brain for greater word comprehension with quizzes based on some of the words in this unit.

scum (SKUHM) (s) (noun), scums (pl)
1. A layer of an unsafe, dirty substance floating on the surface of water: Don't go swimming in this pool because it is covered with scum and so it's terribly slimy.
2. A slang reference for people who are considered to be riffraff, trash, or lowest of the low: The officials considered the demonstrators to be the scum of the city.
scumbag (SKUHM bag") (s) (noun), scumbags (pl)
1. An insulting term for a despicable or objectionable person: The arrogant dictator considered the protesters to be scumbags for protesting the unfair policies of the government.
2. Someone who is considered to be sleazy, dirty, or disreputable; such as, a totally disgusting person who is considered to be rude and derogatory: The youth leader used to be considered a scumbag, but after working in the local youth shelter, he has turned his life around.

The park officials urged the clean-up crew to use rubber gloves when picking up scumbags left under the trees after the riotous rock concert.

scurrilous (adjective), more scurrilous, most scurrilous
1. A reference to the use of low and indecent language of some persons: When it comes to presenting scurrilous people, politicians often are examples of such behavior.

Paul had to make a public announcement to restore his reputation if he wanted a chance at winning the election as mayor after his opponent spread scurrilous lies about him.

Scurrilous accusations or stories are untrue and unfair, and they are likely to damage the reputation of the person that they refer to.

2. Relating to something that is said or done unfairly to make people have a bad opinion of a person: Catherine, an actress and a singer, criticized a reporter who spread scurrilous articles about her in his newspaper which were unfounded and unjust.
3. Etymology: from Latin scurrilis, "buffoon-like", from scurra, "a vulgar buffoon (a person who does silly things) who behaves in an indecent, vile, or vulgar way".
Conveying indecent or offensive language.
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Descriptive of offensive behavior.
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scuttle (verb), scuttles; scuttled; scuttling
1. To undermine or to destroy someone's position or property: The candidate for governor had scuttled his chances of winning with his negative outburst about his opponent.
2. Etymology: from Latin scutella, a form of Latin scutra, "a flat tray, a dish".
To scrap or to discard something.
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scuttlebutt (s) (noun), scuttlebutts (pl)
1. A gossip or rumor about what other people are doing or might do: Irene was hanging out at the water fountain waiting to get some water when she heard some scuttlebutt about Jake and his fellow worker getting married to each other.

Back in the early 1800s, the cask containing a ship's daily supply of freshwater was called a scuttlebutt; that name was later applied to a drinking fountain on all ships or at naval installations.

2. Etymology: from Middle English scuttel, scutel, "dish, platter" + butt, "a keg of drinking water with a hole cut in it on board ships" because sailors would gather around the scuttlebutt, "to drink and to exchange gossip."
A rumor or gossip heard at drinking fountain.
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seamy (adjective), seamier, seamiest
1. Having unpleasant qualities associated with a degraded or degenerate way of living: The social workers often had to work in the seamiest of housing situations.
2. Unpleasant or sordid, low, disagreeable: The Lime House District in London, in the time of Charles Dickens, was considered one of the seamier districts in the city.
3. A reference to unpleasant and usually illegal things; such as, crime, drugs, prostitution, etc.: Ted was involved in a seamy corruption scandal.
4. Showing where two pieces of fabric have been joined together: The seamstress was careful to eliminate the seamy appearance of the garment she was making.
5. Etymology: from about 1604, in a figurative sense, "seamy side, least pleasant, worst"; from seam, alluding to the underside of a garment on which the rough edges of the seams are visible and less attractive; and therefore, typically turned in.
seedy (adjective), seedier, seediest
1. Descriptive of a place or a person that is run-down, unkempt, and shabby looking in appearance: When someone is described as being seedy, he or she is not pleasant to see because of being dirty and untidy.
2. Etymology: from Middle English sed, "seed"; possibly an allusion to the appearance of flowering plants that had a lot of blossoms which turned into seeds.
Pertaining to being shabby and unkempt.
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seer (s) (noun), seers (pl)
1. A person who foresees or foretells events which will happen before they occur: Some seers in Wall Street have predicted a drop in finances in the country.
2. Someone who predicts what will happen in the future by using spiritual insight or divination: Cathy decided to go to the seer with the crystal ball in order to see if her dream of becoming a journalist would come true.

Synonyms that express what a seer is include: a forecaster, a predictor, a prognosticator, a presager, and a foreteller.

4. Etymology: from Middle English seen, "to see, to perceive".
Someone who predicts events.
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seethe (verb), seethes; seethed; seething
1. To foam and churn as if boiling: While Sue was cooking, she had water that was seething and bubbling in a pan where she was going to put some vegetables.
2. To be violently disturbed, against, or excited about something: Tom's children were seething with frustration when their TV wouldn't function during the storm.
3. To be very active: John's brain was seething with ideas about how to improve the contents of his writing project.

The farmer was exasperated when he saw his fields being seethed with millions of grasshoppers.

4. Etymology: from Old English seothan, "boil".
seether (s) (noun), seethers (pl)
1. Something which is used for boiling water and food: Greg's mother used a seether to cook the vegetable soup for dinner.
2. A person who is provoked, infuriated, or irritated: Dave became a seether who was very disturbed when he had his book about refugees, who were fleeing their countries, rejected by three publishers.
seething (adjective), more seething, most seething
A reference to being very agitated, upset, or angry: Henry had a seething reaction and feeling when the train left just before he could get on it.
seraphic (adjective), more seraphic, most seraphic
1. A reference to or characteristic of an angel, being very beautiful and of very good character and righteousness: When Adam arrived home from work, his little daughter usually greeted him with a seraphic smile and run to him so he would pick her up to be in his arms.
2. Etymology: from Greek seraphim, serapheim and Latin seraphim, seraphin, "highest order of angels".
Referring to being angelic.
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Seven Deadly Sins (pl) (noun)
The cardinal sins enumerated by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century: sloth, covetousness, anger, lust, gluttony, envy, and pride: According to some Christian beliefs, the sins that lead to damnation are specifically the Seven Deadly Sins of anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lechery, pride, and sloth.

"Seven" is a number which has a mystical significance for many cultures and traditions. The early Christian church listed several things in sevens. One of the most influential of these lists is that of the Seven Deadly Sins, made by Pope Gregory the Great (540 AD to 605 AD).

The medieval theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas discussed these sins in detail in his Summa Theologica, and as a result, he made them widely known.

  • Anger, wrath, or ire; a feeling of hostility or rage, that can often result violence.
  • Avarice, covetousness, or greed; that is, the a dominant desire for material gain.
  • Envy, the desire to have what others have, including both material goods and personal attributes.
  • Gluttony, consuming too much of something which might be good in moderation. It usually refers to food, but can it can refer to any material goods.
  • Lechery, or lust which is the desire for physical, and especially, sexual pleasure.
  • Pride or vainglory, a feeling of superiority and an excessive belief in one's own abilities. This is usually considered the worst of the sins.
  • Sloth, which refers to spiritual apathy as well as simple laziness.

The list of the Seven Deadly Sins was often contrasted with that of the "Seven Cardinal Virtues"; however, as Thomas Aquinas was careful to explain, they are not direct opposites. In Christian terms, a "deadly" or "capital" sin is one that cuts the sinner off from God and for a believer, this is a fate worse than death, since it is thought to lead to eternal damnation.

In non-Christian terms, these sins may be seen as character faults, which damage a person's spiritual development.

The Seven Deadly Sins are classified as "deadly", not merely because they constitute serious moral offenses, but also because they promote other sins and further immoral behavior; so, the Seven Deadly Sins are also called the deadly "vices", which is considered by some to be more accurate. They are basic, perhaps universal human tendencies, from which other sins result.

shake (verb), shakes; shook; shaking
1. To make many fast small movements up and down, or side to side: The ground and Jason’s house was shaking during the earthquake at night and he and his family almost fell out of their beds!
2. To move or to have parts of a person's body move in short, quick movements and in such a way as to lose control: Expecting her father to call about her mother's condition, Shanna's hand shook as she reached for the phone.
shake-up (s) (noun), shake-ups (pl)
An important modification, change, or a series of changes in the way a company or other organization is run: There has been a major shake-up in Jim's company since profits have decreased so much.

Links to all of the groups of English words in action, Groups A to Z.

You may see the bibliographic list of sources of information for these words in action.